Boston University to Examine Faith-Based Schools

in Education, News Releases, School of Education
April 13th, 2007

Contact: Erin Whipple, 617-358-1688 | ewhipple@bu.edu

Boston – The Boston University School of Education, in collaboration with the Islamic Society of Boston University will host a conference entitled Taking Faith Seriously in School: A Conversation, on April 17. Featuring representatives of Islamic, Catholic, Evangelical and Jewish schools, this ground-breaking event will offer the Greater Boston community the opportunity to openly address what faith-based schools seek to accomplish, as well as the fear and apprehension that often surrounds these institutions.

The day-long conference will be held at the Boston University Photonics Center on St. Mary’s Street from 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM. It is free and open to the public, but pre-registration is required at www.bu.edu/education and there is a 100 person limit. In addition to stimulating panel discussions, the event will include a halal lunch and the noon prayers for those who wish to participate.

While the right of parents to choose the schools and the religious instruction which their children will receive is recognized in international and American law, concerns are often expressed that faith-based schools are divisive and do not prepare their pupils to live in a pluralistic society. This charge was brought against Catholic schools in the 19th century when Irish and other Catholic newcomers developed the parochial school systems so common now throughout the country. Recently, Islamic schools have been a target as Muslim parents band together to form the fastest growing category of faith-based schools in America.

“Some people are concerned that Muslim schools might be developing in isolation from the American education system,” says Dr. Charles Glenn, Dean Ad Interim of the Boston University School of Education. “We don’t think so, and we are confident that most Muslim parents want their children to know how to live according to their faith within American society, not apart from it. Through this conference, we hope to make a contribution by bringing together leaders, parents, and graduates from similar schools to find common ground on how to approach faith-based education in the United States.”

Estimates of the number of Muslim schools in the United States vary from around 180, according to the Department of Education, to nearly 250. The Department of Education also states that there are close to 8,000 Catholic schools, more than 5,000 conservative Christian schools and more than 800 Jewish schools.

Taking Faith Seriously in School: A Conversation will include three panels featuring administrators, parents, and graduates of faith-based schools representing Islamic, Catholic, Evangelical and Jewish beliefs. Additionally, education and policy experts from the United States and Holland will react to issues related to religious freedom in education. The experts from Holland will bring a unique perspective, as the Dutch government funds all schools, both public as well as religious, and controversy over Islamic schools has grown tremendously in recent years.

The panel of policy experts will include: Ben Vermeulen, a professor of constitutional and administrative law at Vrije University, Amsterdam and an advisor to the Dutch Ministers of Education and Immigration; AnneBert Dijkstra, a program director in the National Education Inspectorate of the Dutch Ministry of Education; Peter Skerry, a professor of political science at Boston College and Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, where his research focuses on social policy, racial and ethnic politics, and immigration; and Ali Jabareen, an Israeli Arab who is a member of the faculty of Al-Qasemi Academy College of Education in Israel and a doctoral candidate at the BU School of Education.

The Boston University School of Education provides comprehensive teacher preparation to students in more than 20 concentrations and maintains a variety of collaborative agreements with school districts in the greater Boston area. SED is one of Boston University’s 17 schools and colleges. Founded in 1839, Boston University is an internationally recognized institution of higher education and research. With more than 30,000 students, it is the fourth largest independent university in the United States.

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